June 27, 1983 12:00 PM

by Kim Chernin

In this extraordinary double biography, the author presents her mother’s story as the passionate main theme to the reflective counterpoint of her own life. It is a Jewish version of Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoirs of growing up Chinese-American, and it is held together by abounding tension and love. Kim’s mother, Rose, was born in a Russian ghetto and became an American Communist and organizer for what she refers to—even today, near the age of 80—as “the people.” Her recollections of the Soviet Union in the ’30s and of her troubles during the McCarthy years remain as intriguing as when she first related them to Kim, then a little girl. “This is our struggle,” the author explains. “From it we have heroes, we have our own songs, we have stories, and of course we have this kind of telling, from mouth to ear, as my mother used to say.” Kim is now a poet in Berkeley, Calif., a mother and a disenchanted ex-Socialist who both admired her mother’s political passion and suffered terribly from it. Rose asked her to write it all down, and it took seven years to satisfy the request. In the end, Kim seems immensely gratified, as readers ought to be. (Ticknor & Fields, $14.95)

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